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Published on 3rd January 2024

#Not OK : Standing Up Against Poor Behaviour in the Utilities Sector


In December, the season of Christmas and awards events when everyone dresses up, and food, wine and entertainment are abundant, most people have a great time and celebrate together…

But some things happened that have been reported to us that need to have a light shone on them as indicative of the type of challenges that women in utilities regularly face into.

  • At one event, whilst walking past a table of men, a group of women were taunted with ‘oh here comes the entertainment’ and associated laughter. While this may be defended as banter amongst the boys, is insulting and entirely inappropriate when directed at professional women in a work context (or indeed at any other time).
  • At another, two men refused to sit on a table of eight women because they felt ‘outnumbered’. Can you imagine this happening the other way round?
  • On dance floors at more than one event, women were inappropriately touched and quite literally ‘man handled’ sometimes with the need for the intervention from others.

In a time of celebration of a year’s work, contribution to their industry or just generally celebrating Christmas with colleagues is more than a shame that this behaviour is still endemic on a daily basis in a work context, but often goes beneath the radar.

The real issue is that in discussing these events- there are very few people who are surprised. Indeed, when discussed at the Board of WUN and with others, all of us could personally identify comparable events in our careers and reel off equally shocking behaviour that we have experienced. And because it is so common, the usual response is for women to shrug it off or just internalise the event, wondering what they could have done differently. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but a throwaway comment at a woman’s expense, is both inappropriate but also erodes confidence. If it’s your boss, or someone senior to you, you just don’t know how to respond. It is only when you are older, or in positions of authority that the confidence comes to call out inappropriate behaviour. Which is what we are now doing on behalf of all WUN members.

It is not OK. The ‘would you behave like this with your mother?’ test needs to be applied at all times in the workplace. Men (particularly) and women too, need to have the confidence to call out inappropriate comments and behaviour in relation to women colleagues every time they happen. If we all do it, it would significantly help retain and support the development of women’s careers in the Utilities sector.

This is going to be a focus area for us at WUN in 2024.

Please support us in calling out others when It’s Not OK.